The Wen Hair Care System
From the Wen website:
Wen® Cleansing Conditioner is a revolutionary new concept in hair care. A 5-in-1 formula, this one product takes the place of your shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioner, detangler and leave-in conditioner. It cleanses hair thoroughly but without lathering and all the harsh ingredients that may be found in ordinary shampoos—it is designed so it won't strip your hair and scalp of their natural oils. Your hair is left with sheen, moisture, manageability and better color retention.
Celebrity stylist Chaz Dean presents Wen®, an industry-changing product line that is the first ever to exclude ordinary shampoo. What sets Wen® apart from the rest is its cleansing conditioner, a single-step process that cleanses and conditions the hair simultaneously.
Unlike many ordinary shampoos, Wen cleansers are made with natural ingredients and contain no sodium laurel sulfate or other damaging detergents. They don't lather; instead, they create smooth foam when mixed with water for shinier, healthier-looking, more manageable results.
Now Let's Break It Down
First off, a cleansing conditioner is hardly new and not really revolutionary or an original concept by Wen. Does anyone remember PERT?
Yes, PERT Plus has some pretty strong surfactants in it, no denying that, but as I stated above, not a unique or original concept, and certainly not revolutionary.
The Claim To Fame Of Removal Of Harsh Surfactants
The ingredients are very nice and extremely gentle, but there is the point that is made that they don't use SLS or other detergents. In the Wen commercial, Chaz makes this same claim, including not using any harsh surfactants. Well, Sodium Laurel Sulfate is certainly a very effective surfactant and can be irritating to some, but it is still about the dose in terms of percentage in the formula, and is typically not a stand alone ingredient on product labels. It is combined with other surfactants for the best cleansing effect.
Based on the concept of wishing to make this an all-in-one product, using SLS is not an option since it is designed to cleanse and then be washed away. It should never be left on the scalp or skin anyway, but this also includes many other ingredients, including some listed in the Wen products, ie, menthol. Any leave in conditioner has the propensity to cause irritation, that is why I would only recommend rinse off products always, to avoid any scalp problems.
Color Won't Fade
Better color retention is another product claim. Actually though, any type of cleansing will gradually fade color treated hair, and water is actually the enemy of retention of color. Mineral deposits and chlorine which are found in most drinking water will alter hair color with or without shampooing. So we can't blame it all on cleansing agents. In fact, conditioner is recommended to coat the hair for swimmers in order to prevent takeup of chlorinated water by the hair since hair is porous.
Also for anyone who has softened water, hair will have a sleek feel to it compared to showering in hard water, so water plays a key role in results when using any haircare products. The fact is, the harder the water, the more shampoo you need in order to break surface tension. Soft water, you can use far less since it is easier for the surfactants to break the surface tension of the water, lifting dirt easily.
Won't Damage Hair
Now this one actually is a bit misleading. If you have watched the commercials, the process of cleansing the hair is straightforward and actually the best way to wash your hair no matter the shampoo. So do take a lesson from the process shown in the commercial.
Lathering the hair is not actually the thing that will cause split ends, frizz or breakage as Chaz Dean proclaims, it is the way you shampoo your hair. Lathering by rolling and twisting the hair, piling it on top of the head and scrubbing away madly is where the damage occurs. When hair is wet it is more subject to stretching and friction before breaking, which is why the hair shaft frizzes.
If you find a favorite shampoo, and lather your hair from scalp to ends in one direction, you'll see great improvement of the texture of your hair over time, anyway.......I certainly did! It may require the use of more product doing it this way, but you'll love the results versus piling your hair on the head, balling it up to use less shampoo.....your hair will pay the price for this practice.
The Cleansing Ingredients
The Wen cleansing conditioner contains two major ingredients that are known as a surfactant and a foam boosting surfactant, Cetyl Alcohol and Cetearyl Alcohol. (fatty acids and moisturizing) These are your main cleansing agents. The others which are also designed as an extremely gentle surfactant and conditioning agent are Behentrimonium Methosulfate and Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine. So don't be fooled by the claim the products don't use surfactants. By the very definition, these ingredients are exactly that....so as you see here, surfactant should not be a word to use in a negative context. Many ingredients pull double duty for having more than one useful component in personal care products.
All The Rest
Then of course you have your coating of Amodimethicone for smoothing the hair, plus it is an anti foaming agent as well. Caution here since those with fine or limp hair, will find this ingredient to be overly heavy on the hair, making it feel dirty. Oily hair types will absolutely not love this product. In fact in some of the before and after shots, the finished styles looked heavy and oily near the scalp, to me.
Then you have your basic preservatives and mystery mixture of essential oils. This is particularly a problem for those maybe being sensitive to EO's, since without the composition of the formula, a reaction is a potential problem.
Does It Really Get Hair Clean
Depends on your definition of clean. If hair is not particularly dirty, and you are not a person to use hair products like hairspray, mousse, gels or leave in conditioners then it can do a decent job as can water for that matter. The gentlest of surfactants can do a moderate job of lifting dirt and debris from the hair and scalp, but for the most part this is heavy with conditioning agents and women with limp, fine hair or oily scalp, may find it weighs hair down. Short hair may also appear flat and limp. For women that have short or long curly hair or coarse hair, then their hair may be quite lovely and will be pleased with the effect. But if you are an avid fan of haircare setting products, then the Wen products will fail. There simply is not enough good surfactants to reduce the surface tension in order for the dirt or other haircare products to be removed.
Chaz also describes the longer you leave it on, the better the results, and the more you use, the better the results. Well it is no wonder....with so few and less desirable surfactants in the formula, it takes more to try and break the surface tension between the water and the dirt. The expense of this product is also not warranted and can get really expensive if you have hair longer than past your jaw line.
If you also decide to leave it on as a hair treatment, make sure you avoid the scalp area and place it mostly on the ends to avoid any reaction to the scalp. Besides, if this is left on the scalp, your hair will appear oily and not the attempted clean look you are going for.
Alternatives To The Wen Haircare System
I checked and used other haircare products in the past and one I did a write up on...Pantene conditioner has very similar ingredients to the Wen system, but it can be quite heavy on hair as well. It is excellent for dry, frizzy, damaged and color treated hair, which is why I loved this product. But I also would not recommend it for the same reasons I stated above.
If you like this concept, then there are alternatives to Wen for far less than paying such a high price for what amounts to a nice, simple conditioner with some cleaning action. I can't begin to tell you what is out there on the shelves, but two lightweight conditioning ingredients to check for that also double for a mild surfactant are Stearalkonium Chloride and Cetrimonium Chloride. You will have to balance this with the product having too many silicone derivatives, however. If you see that the conditioner is loaded with these then it will coat the hair to the extreme and be too heavy. If the silicone derivative is toward the bottom of the ingredient list, then you will have a lighter feel to hair and a better experience.
Bottom Line In My Opinion
There is no substitute for cleaning hair traditionally with a gentle shampoo followed by a good conditioner. For one, if you aren't used to the concept of a conditioning cleanser, you may not like it one bit. There were many I found on forums and complaint boards touting this very sentiment.
There are many good products on the market. Basic rules are to cleanse hair going only in one direction to prevent causing damage to the hair shaft, and using a good conditioner will further smooth and coat the hair leaving it silky and flowing just as beautifully as the women that demonstrate the Wen products.
Practice a gentle haircare routine and you too can have gorgeous hair.
Skip days between shampoos when possible, don't color treat your hair, (I do, so not an option for me) don't over use styling products especially those containing alcohol, use a hair serum for shiny smooth hair, rinse with cool water to help smooth hair shaft, don't use curling irons, and never brush hair while wet, only use a wide tooth comb or hair pick, especially on long hair....and never towel rub hair dry, only pile on head and wrap in a towel to absorb the excess moisture.
Also a nice steam set with rollers will leave hair beautifully lustrous. It isn't all in the haircare products I can assure you that makes for gorgeous hair, but good hair practice that makes perfect.